Kenesserie works to ensure kids can enjoy camp for decades

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By Michael Bennett
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Ridgetown Independent

Kenesserie Camp has launched a capital campaign aimed at the coming summer to ensure kids can enjoy the camp for decades.

The ‘Solid Ground & Soaring Future’ campaign was created to raise funds for critical infrastructure upgrades needed to keep the camp running well into the future.

The campaign fundraising goal is $500,000, which is broken down into a $300,000 Building Fund, $100,000 Equipment Fund and $100,000 Sustainability Fund.

Dan Richards, Kenesserie’s executive director, said $142,000 has already been raised for the campaign from private donors and funding from the United Church of Canada, the incorporated ministry of the Kenesserie Camp Corporation.

The ‘Solid Ground & Soaring Future’ campaign will fund a new commercial kitchen, relocate cabins, upgrade utilities and continue to help the camp expand safely.

The camp averages about 450 local children each summer and employs upwards of 25 local youth and young adults as counsellors and leaders.

The summer program consists of seven week-long sessions plus a full week of staff training before the camp opens.

“Kenesserie Camp isn’t just about campfires and games; it’s about building lifelong friendships, discovering hidden talents and sparking a love for the outdoors that stays with you forever,” Richards said. “Imagine the impact you could have on a child’s future by helping Kenesserie continue to create these magical summers for Chatham-Kent children and youth.”

Kenesserie Camp survived not only the pandemic years but a very hectic 2023 when less than a month before the first week of camp, a Chatham-Kent Public Health inspector declared the dining hall, three cabins and staff lounge, the Vesper Point outdoor chapel and campfire pit could not be used due to shoreline erosion safety concerns.

Camp staff and volunteers rallied to make alternative arrangements, including renting a commercial kitchen trailer, purchasing large dining tents and repurposing a field house for additional sleeping quarters.

Despite the hurdle, the camp not only opened on time, but 460 children were still able to attend camp.

Another obstacle was cleared in the fall when a campaign to cover the $75,000 in expenses incurred by the emergency changes resulted in over $83,000 being raised – with individuals, organizations and businesses from Ridgetown credited for raising more than a quarter of the donations.

The ‘Solid Ground & Soaring Future’ campaign will raise funds for permanent structures, including a 20-foot-by-80-foot addition to the Spirit Building for a new kitchen and storage area, plus a new dining room in the existing portion of the building, as well as relocating sleeping cabins away from the slope zone.

Registration for the 2024 season began in February.

“We’re slightly ahead of last year’s registration at this time, so we’re confident we’ll hit our targets,” Richards said, as the renovations will allow the camp to operate at full capacity of 125-130 campers and staff each week.

He said interviews are taking place to hire the 25-30 camp staff, who will undergo a full week of training before the first week of camp.

Camp Kenesserie will host an open house on June 2, from noon to 6 p.m. as renovations are expected to be completed for parents and children to see.

Anyone interested in donating to the ‘Solid Ground & Soaring Future’ campaign can go online to www.kenesserie.com

To learn more about donation opportunities, information sessions, or scheduling a site visit, contact Richards at dan@kenesserie.com or call 519-674-2497.

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